One of the things I love about the NBA is sometimes teams don’t have to wait very long to get a chance to avenge a loss. Well, the Lakers only had to wait 48 hours before they can get another crack at the Utah Jazz after dropping their first meeting at the Staples Center “Shootout” last Sunday. The Jazz are still undefeated in pre-season, so the Lakers could be the first team to hand them a big “L” Tuesday night.
Utah were without their leader Deron Williams on Sunday because of a strained right calf, but rookie Gordon Hayward looked very good taking over the perimeter game for Williams leading them with 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting. This kid is pretty crafty on offense and isn’t bad at utilizing screens to get himself open. Not Ray Allen off-ball movement good but he’s not shabby either. But, we’ll see what he does this time against a Laker defense that now has his attention.
Phil Jackson replaced his entire starting lineup halfway through the 1st quarter on Sunday against Utah. I don’t see that happening again, at least, that early in the game. Kobe Bryant was a little annoyed by having to sit on the pine for 18 minutes, so he took out his frustration on Raja Bell and the Jazz in the 3rd quarter. He scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting and almost single-handedly grabbed the lead out of Utah’s hands in almost half a quarter.
Expect Kobe to be a little more aggressive from the get-go than normal Tuesday night. In fact, look for a better Steve Blake also after egging it out on Sunday with a 0-7 performance on offense. If he knows the Triangle as well as everybody’s saying, then he should be able to get himself a shot early on his first minutes on the floor just to show everyone that he’s back.
What to Look for Against Utah
• The Bench: They had a miserable outing on Sunday at both ends of the floor. They looked lost on defense, and they couldn’t get anything going on offense. Turnovers were also a common theme for them. Expect Phil to have them concentrate on defense first. He doesn’t like it when one player lights up his team, especially a rookie. Offensively, the bench should be running the offense in a halfcourt set, but look for Blake to speed up the pace also. Phil wants to see how well the Jazz’s second unit can keep up with his bench’s athleticism and quicks.
• Defense: You should see a better communicating and a more active defense Tuesday night. The Lakers were caught just reacting to what the Jazz were doing on the floor on offense way too many times, so there should be a lot of ball-denials, hands in the passing lanes, block attempts, and clogged lanes to the hoop. Utah shot 50.7% on Sunday, so I’m sure Phil has that number circled in his notes.
• Offense: Pau Gasol had a huge game on offense on Sunday, but expect Kobe and Lamar Odom to join the fray more. Ron Artest also got it going with 17 points. I don’t see that happening again, but I also don’t see a less aggressive Ron either. But, just like the bench the starters should also be more active and more precise on offense.
• Turnovers: The Lakers are trying to reduce the number of errors as they head to opening night on Oct. 26th, so we’ll see if they make a good effort in cleaning that up more on Tuesday. But with the Lakers expected to play better defense like they showed in the 3rd quarter last Sunday, turnovers should go up for the Jazz.
TIp-off is at 7:00 p.m. (PST) at the Honda Center, Anaheim, CA. TV: KCAL-9 (Los Angeles) Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
Other Notes: There’s a possibility that Luke Walton could rejoin the Lakers against the Jazz on Tuesday. But there’s no guarantee he’ll actually play. If not, then Thursday against the Warriors would be the more realistic option.
There’s also no guarantee if he’ll play on Thursday either. But it’s good to know he’s back healthy…for now.
Andrew Bynum has been cleared by doctors to do non-basketball activities. That means that Bynum can start running and other workouts designed to strengthen his knee.
Andrew expects to participate in team practice in 2 or 3 weeks. If that’s the case, then he should be ready by November. Then again, when was Bynum ever right about assessing his injuries.
When Sasha Vujacic comes out of his concussion, he’ll be Shannon Brown‘s biggest competition behind Kobe off of the bench. Phil doesn’t think any of the bench players outside Lamar and possibly Blake will garner minutes anywhere close to 20 minutes per game. But Brown doesn’t expect a lot of minutes. He’s just focused on being a better all-around player this season and helping out the Lakers anyway he can.
Shannon has always had a good head on his shoulder. His attitude and willingness to work on his game are the reasons why the Lakers wanted him back. You just don’t find that kind of personality in a lot of young players nowadays.